He said that Cambodian and foreign prosecutors who have been building cases against former Khmer Rouge leaders would probably send those files on to investigating judges within weeks.

 

The rules announced on Wednesday in Phnom Penh will govern every aspect of the United Nations-backed tribunal's operations.

 

The tribunal was set up last year, but agreements over the court process had been held up because of wrangling over legal fees and procedures.

The delays mean that the trials proper are unlikely to start before early 2008, officials say.

 

(Go to the end of this page to see how the trials will work.)

 

'Counter-revolutionaries'

 

Cambodia: After the killing fields



The legacy of Year Zero

Long wait for justice

Key Khmer Rouge figures

Surviving the Khmer Rouge

Up to two million Cambodians died from hunger, disease, overwork or execution during the Khmer Rouge rule over Cambodia from 1975 to 1979.

 

The radical communist group had sought to transform Cambodia into their version of an agrarian utopia, clearing the cities, abolishing money, closing schools and wiping out anyone - such as intellectuals and professionals - who they saw as counter-revolutionaries.

 

The repeated delays in starting up the trial process has raised concerns that the ageing Khmer Rouge leaders would die before being brought to court.

 

Among the judges' first tasks will be to identify candidates for prosecution.

 

Pol Pot, the so-called "Brother Number One" of the Khmer Rouge, died in a jungle hideout close to the Thai border in 1998.

 

Ta Mok, the group's military commander, who earned the nickname "The Butcher", died in prison last July.

 

Among those surviving Khmer Rouge leaders, the likely first defendants to appear before the tribunal include:

  • Nuon Chea, the former Brother Number Two, second in command to Pol Pot.
  • Ieng Sary, the former foreign minister.
  • Khieu Samphan, the former president of the Khmer Rouge government.
  • And Duch, head of the infamous S-21 interrogation and torture centre in Phnom Penh.

 

How the trials will work

The trials will be held in a
specially-constructed court
After preliminary investigations, judicial prosecutors will take the strongest cases to the trial chamber.

 

The trial will be heard before five judges: three Cambodian and two international with equal status.

 

A unanimous decision is not necessary, but a supermajority is, meaning at least four of the five must agree on the verdict.

 

If no super majority can be reached the defendant will be released.

 

Anyone convicted can appeal to the supreme court where five of seven judges will constitute a super majority.